Body cameras for Malaysia's front-line officers

Malaysian law enforcers working on the front line, such as police and immigration officers, will be equipped with body-mounted cameras in a bid to curb corruption and reinforce professionalism.

This was revealed yesterday by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who also announced that the government is seeking to upgrade and install more closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) at locations including police lock-ups. There have been complaints of abuse and even killings of suspects at such lock-ups.

"We will enforce body cameras on police, immigration and Customs (officials) so that we can know what they are up to… if there is corruption or abuse... if they turn it off also, we will know," Tun Dr Mahathir told reporters after chairing an anti-corruption meeting in Putrajaya.

The implementation of such measures, Dr Mahathir said, will take place as soon as the government "has the budget".

There are complaints that Malaysian law enforcers who deal directly with the public often ask for bribes or abuse suspects.

Said Dr Mahathir: "People can complain, but we need proof, a body camera can show us what happened. However, not all officers will wear it, only certain officers will.

"We will also be installing cameras in five police lock-up centres."

There were 257 deaths of suspects while in police lock-up between 2002 and 2016, according to official statistics provided by the Home Ministry in a parliamentary reply on March 28, 2017.

Dr Mahathir's announcement came about as Malaysia, under the Pakatan Harapan government, is looking to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), after years of delay under the previous administration.

 
 

The proposed IPCMC was among recommendations issued by the Royal Commission of Inquiry formed in February 2004, following public uproar over the rising number of deaths in police detention and claims of police brutality.

Malaysia's plan to introduce body-mounted cameras follows similar practice for front-line officers in places such as Singapore, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Body cameras for Malaysia's front-line officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe